DPW provides senators with update on Fono Building
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Head of Public Works' architectural/engineering division, Joe Pereira and Public Works director Faleosina Voigt testified yesterday before the Senate Public Works Committee on the status of the new two-story Fono building construction, which has been on hold since last September following concerns raised by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Region IX Administrator, Robert J. Fenton informed Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga in August that the new building does not comply with federal regulations, and it appears that construction of the new Fono building is on a site that is in a Flood Zone VE, which is the “highest-risk flood zone, subject to damaging forces of high waves and high wind."
Voigt recalled for senators that an ASG delegation, led by Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga, met with FEMA officials last October in California to discuss ways to reach a consensus in order to move the project forward.
At that meeting, ASG made a request that if the federal agency wants changes to the construction of the building, they should provide funding support.
At this point, Voigt told the committee, the construction phase — which was awarded to Paramount Builders — remains on hold while ASG and the building’s architect work with FEMA to move the project forward.
She explained that FEMA was to conduct a study of the Flood Zone VE, to be completed last month. However, she added, ASG has since been informed that the study’s scope of work has expanded to include the entire territory.
Citing federal regulations, Fenton informed the governor last year that all new construction in this flood zone must be built using ‘post and pier’ construction to elevate the lowest Base Floor Elevation (BFE), with no obstructions under the building.
“These regulatory requirements must be followed, and no exceptions or variances are allowed,” he said, and pointed out that American Samoa is a participating community in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the territory could lose its participation in the NFIP. (And the ASG delegation was later told when they were in Washington D.C. that infrastructure funding (CIP) could also be put in jeopardy.)
During the Senate committee hearing, Voigt said that while awaiting the outcome of the FEMA study, ASG has already started working on preparations, which include the consultant, Lively Company, providing the cost of construction using “piles”.
ASG hopes that by the end of this month, they will get “figures and numbers”.
During the hearing, Sen. Logoai Siaki Logoai was adamant that FEMA has no say when it comes to projects in American Samoa, and FEMA does not dictate what ASG should do. Some senators seemed to agree with Logoai, while others are calling for ASG to comply with federal regulations to ensure the safety of the structure.
Voigt shared with senators some insight regarding FEMA regulations for non compliance. For example, FEMA can place a state or territory on probation, meaning it can still receive federal funding if the territory is impacted by a disaster.
However, if American Samoa is placed on suspension, the territory will not qualify for any type of federal assistance if a disaster happens.
Sen. Muagututia Tauoa called for the dismantling of all that has been constructed so far and re-start the entire project, to fully comply with federal regulations.
This Samoa News photo yesterday shows the yet-to-be completed foundation of the new two-story Fono building which has been on hold since late last year after concerns were raised by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Some senators, during yesterday’s Senate Public Works Committee hearing on the status of the new two-story Fono building construction have recommended it be totally dismantled and the entire project be re-started to fully comply with federal regulations. [photo: FS]